I’ve Seen Worse

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“The mini-van sliding door of shame.” It’s a thing. You know,  when you drop your kids at school, all humanity is watching, the door slides open, and two McDonald’s cups, a gazillion goldfish crackers and one muddy soccer cleat avalanche before an audience of teachers and students. Yeah. It’s a bummer.

When this happened a few years ago, Eli’s precious teacher made a valiant effort to catch the miscellaneous items rolling between her legs. I was mortified.  I had to put my car in park, resulting in a drop-off line clog up, insisting, “You really don’t need to help me find a trash can!”

“My car’s been way worse!” she giggled.

My ears were scorching with embarrassment. However, I was able to laugh after I danced the humiliation-hustle back into the driver’s seat.  What a gift to be met with grace, and not disdain. Had her car really been worse?! Probably not. But, I chose to believe her. I imagined some mini-van, somewhere in the world, where maybe three McDonald’s cups slipped out.  Thinking of that Mamma made me smile. I wish I could meet her and whisper, ‘I’ve seen way worse…in my own backseat!’

Let’s be honest, we’re all in the same mini-van. Let’s give grace as a free gift to each other. We have the power to turn someone’s shame into relieved acceptance by simply acknowledging -we’re actually human, too!

The beauty of freely given grace, is it doesn’t put the recipient on trial before deciding if they’re worthy. I fully admit, I’m clean-car challenged. But that specific season of life was Crazy Town. Eli’s teacher didn’t know what I was straining to juggle. She didn’t need to. She didn’t need any other reason to love me like Jesus…but to know she was first loved by Him. “We love because he first loved us”.(1 John 4:19-21)

As we enter into a new school season, be the first to encourage another Mamma if she’s having a, “trash-just-rolled-out-of-my-car,” kind of day.  She may be hitting some speed bumps you’re unaware of.

Sit with her in the space she feels “less-than”.

Refrain from judgement.

Give grace freely. It costs you nothing.  

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

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Blue Fish Faith: A re-post in honor of London, my wise, unwanted fish. May he rest in peace & never slide under an oven again.

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I’m sad to announce that London, the infamous Masters fish, passed away this week. And no…I didn’t accidentally cook him! He died of natural causes (or perhaps internal injuries from the recent oven incident 😬). Many of you’ve followed this silly dude’s journey through my blogs and speaking. This is the first blog I ever wrote about my blue friend. May he rest in peace.

I ended up with a pet fish last month. I say “ended up,” because I didn’t want, ask for, or like this fish. I actually don’t like fish unless they have been grilled, fried or baked. I certainly don’t like them looking bored in a bowl on the kitchen counter. But my sweet eight year old daughter has her daddy wrapped around his caring finger. So when the two of them ran into the pet store to grab dog food, she came back to the car proudly carrying a fish in a cup.

“Mommy! Me and Daddy bought you a pet fish!”

“Oh? Why?”

“Because! Isn’t he so pretty? And, he was on sale!”

Well then, if he was on sale…I’d love to have another dirty animal to care for -on top of the dog, the bunny, and two leopard geckos.

“Oh, thank you, Sweet Girl. He is super pretty.”

Ugh!

I have a horrible history with pet fish. Seriously. Once I cooked my goldfish. I didn’t realize my mom had just washed the dishes with burning hot water. I filled a cup unknowingly with scalding water and carefully transfered my goldfish so I could clean his bowl. Within seconds, this doomed fish turned upside down, his scales white.

Poor fish. I don’t even remember his name.

So here I was, once again with the task of caring for a gilled creature. His name is London. My daughter is right. He’s really pretty. London is a Betta fish with long, flowing fins circling all around him.

Two weeks in, London stopped eating. He sulked at the bottom of his bowl. His fins looked burdened and heavy. He had weird white spots. I actually felt sad! I needed to find out if I could help London. I had a responsibility to keep this fish alive.

For one thing, it was a gift from my daughter. Second, I wanted to redeem myself for murdering what’s-his-name all those years ago.

I Googled, “What to do if Betta fish gets sick.” I went to the pet store, bought special water drops. Our family prayed for him before dinner.

Washing dishes a few days later, something caught my attention. A bright blue, poetic-like thrashing called me to London’s bowl. He was at the water’s surface, fins fanned and dancing around his body. He was hungry! I dropped one tiny food pellet in the bowl. He literally jumped up out of the water to catch the first one. He was ravenous. He shimmied and waited intently for more. He was healthy again.

Believe it or not, God’s Spirit spoke to me as I fed this silly little fish. He’s been chasing me down with a verse from Psalms for months. It’s been in worship songs and every podcast I’ve decided to turn on. My daughter even wrote her own devotional using the same verse. When I cleaned out the garage last week, I opened a devotional and on the top of the page was this same verse…again.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Psalm 34:8

My response to to this verse had been, “Yes, Lord, I know You are good. You are so good.”  But, as I watched how breathtaking this fish was when he was hungry, deeper truth whispered to me.

Just as London had become gorgeous in his hunger…we are gorgeous in our Father’s eyes when we hunger for Him. He is longing for us to hover at the top of every moment, intently waiting to receive from Him.

If I want to taste the full goodness of God, I must first be hungry for Him. Not just hungry, but ravenous. Ravenous for His Word, His presence, His direction, His love. I must be swimming to the top of my prayer life, jumping out in faith to taste His goodness.

If God looks upon me and I’m sulking at the bottom of my day – with no desire to taste His goodness, no desire to be nourished by His Word – it’s an indication that I’m spiritually sick.

How can we taste of God’s goodness if we are not coming to His table to eat? And, why would we come to His table if we weren’t hungry? We’re  not called to come to His table as an afterthought. We wouldn’t insult a host by filling up on a meal we cooked ourselves before we went to their home for dinner. In the same way, we owe God our full appetite.

What had I been filling my soul with BEFORE coming to the Lord’s table? Was I leaving only enough space in my spiritual stomach for a small sampling of the Lord’s goodness?

Our mighty God is not an appetizer.  

He is not a dessert to finish our day with.

His very Word, His presence, His love is to be the bread that sustains me all day, every day. Nothing else. The Lord will only fill us with what we’ve made room for. The more we come to be filled by Him, the greater and fuller the filling will become.

When we’re ravenous for the Lord, people notice. Just like London’s movement at the top of his bowl made me put down my sponge and watch.  London is healthy, full of color and life. This is how God intended him to be.

God has designed His children to make the world stop and stare. The world should look at God’s children and ask, “What are they so hungry for? What makes them so passionate that they would jump up out of the mire of life to reach for more?”  Then we can pull up a chair and invite them to taste and see that the Lord is good.

My husband teases me, “God wanted to teach you to have blue fish faith”.

Cute. But if he buys me another fish, it’s going in the frying pan. Just sayin’.

The Strength We Sometimes Forget

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When I was a kid, some lady bundled me in winter clothes and threw me into a swimming pool. I think she was my swim teacher…or an escaped mental patient. Either way, the struggle was real.

I don’t recall having any legal representation or signing a waiver.  I just heard the zip of a puffy jacket, felt my feet lift off, and everything went silent as my head sunk under water. I tried to kick, but the snow boots cemented to my feet were SOO-AAA-HEAVY. Luckily, I had freakishly strong arms.

I fixed my eyes on the side of the pool. My muscles were burning. My mom was cheering. She saw an ability in me I didn’t know I had. If I wanted to make it to that edge, I had to forget about the weight on my feet and focus on my strength.

I’ve never been able to shake the memory of this day. Not because it was mildly horrifying, but because I made it to the edge of that pool. Even though I’d been thrown into an unknown circumstance, bearing the weight of unwanted burdens…

I did it.

I knew I could do it again.

How many times has it felt like God has thrown you into a cold pool with a Patagonia jacket and a pair of UGGS?

How many times has it felt he’s standing on the side watching you struggle for air?!

It can feel cruel.

Feelings lie.

God sees the strength in us we forget to claim. He sees HIS spirit in us, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. (Romans 6:10-11) He wants us to see this truth, too!

He won’t allow the world to throw us in a pool and watch us drown.

He knows this…but he needs US to know this. We can’t fathom how the power of God can propel us through the waves, unless we’ve endured numerous storms.

It has nothing to do with our freakishly strong arms, but everything to do with our fiercely strong God. When we are weak, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11) How can we claim this, if we haven’t lived this?

I’ve experienced God’s supernatural ability to carry me through some goopy gunk. I know on a profoundly personal level, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

We all find ourselves floating in unknown circumstances, bearing the weight of unwanted burdens.

We all have a choice.

We can focus on the weight pulling us down, or focus on our strength– Christ in us.

Focus on Him, and we claim our holy ability to endure and press on.

We begin to trust we can survive deeper waters, swim a little farther, stay in the fight a bit longer. We begin to believe God keeps his promise to never leave us nor forsake us. He will always deliver us to His perfect will…even if it takes wearing soggy snow boots to get us there.

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Something on the Brink of Death is Stuck Under My Oven

 

 

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I’m on all fours, straining to flick out the blue, wriggling tail that’s slide under my oven.

I need something long, but not sharp.

 Alexa…Will a butter knife cut a beta fish?

Alexa…how long, can this thing live out of water?

Goodness, my daughter is crying. She begged to help me transfer the fish into his clean water bowl. She didn’t want to help, she wanted to do it herself.

I knew it was a bad idea. We’ve had London two years now. I’ve made it clear to him,

If you jump out and fall on the floor, I’m not picking you up. You’ll die there, buddy.

However, when the tragedy unfolded, I couldn’t let him die, undignified, on a sticky kitchen floor.

No. I’d save his life! And I did. He was softer than I’d imagined. Gross…but soft.

I kinda, sorta, totally love him.

I imagine we’ve all pleaded with God to give us something. Unlike me, he’s a perfect parent. My fuzzy feelings for London the fish, are nothing compared to the love God has for the desires of my heart.

He knows when we’re ready.

He knows when we’re not.

We may drop the responsibility on the floor, shrink behind a stool and cry. Not because we don’t want to please God, but because we aren’t equipped yet for the call.

For years, I’ve asked God,

Why have you allowed so many trials in our pursuit of adoption?

I’ve begged and begged…

Just let us do this Lord!!

He’s answered on several occasions the same way,

I’m making you stronger.

I don’t know all the reasons we’re asked to wait. However, I do know there is perfectly holy reason for every situation. Sometimes he waits because I haven’t allowed him to shape my desires to his perfect will.

Desires of the heart aren’t docile and tame. More often, hope slips out of our hands and wedges itself in a hot, messy crevice. When it does, we can’t flip out and pronounce it dead. We need to be ready to get on our knees and breathe life into it through arduous prayer.

The third time the door shut on adoption; I swear the rupture in my heart was audible.

But I remembered, Jesus was, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” (Isaiah 53:3)

I also know he pushed through, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)

There was a joy our Savior didn’t reach until he endured great suffering. He knew the suffering was worth it because there was incomprehensible joy on the other end.

God cherishes the desires of our hearts so immensely, he won’t hand them over until our hands are perfectly aligned with his for safe transfer. Then, we must allow his hands to cup our own and lead us in the right direction.

So many times, I’ve pulled away from his will and forged the journey on my own.  He’s super patient. He’s watched countless ‘fish’ splat on my life’s floor.

Every so often, by his grace, my hold stays in perfect unison with his. This doesn’t mean things move forward without a hitch. I can’t flawlessly love and persevere like Jesus. But when something on the brink of death is stuck under my oven, I don’t freak out like I used to.

I understand desires of our hearts require constant care and dedication.  We need to love them as much as God does. Sometimes, it’s necessary to face things that once grossed us out; like picking up a fish or seeing the corrupt underbelly of adoption institutions.

Whatever God places in my little hands, is something he totally adores. He doesn’t give it to me to watch it suffocate. He has to make me brave enough to stretch into the unknown and fight for its life when things get shaky.

God withholds, until we’re prepared to take holy-hold of the things he loves.

 

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. “

Ecclesiastes 3:11

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Tending to Hope Among the Decay

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She’s waiting.

I’m worried.

If one more soccer ball crashes against our disintegrating patio cover, it might collapse. At our house, that’s every 2 minutes.  I’ve learned not to judge other mammas. But, seriously. Why did this sweetie choose such a precarious place to nest her egg?!

We named her Penelope. She’s the best little mamma, tirelessly tending to the hope beneath her. She wants to be ready when life breaks through. Her delicate frame flutters about, eyes watching for the slightest movement. She rests, but not for long.

Her focus is constant.

My focus has changed.

Instead of wishing we’d tear down our patio cover and replace it with beautiful wood, I’m praying it stays up. I’m rooting for the budding life, cupped in splintered hands. My eyes go straight to the nest now.

I no longer look at the defective, but at the life I’ve detected.  I love sitting under my creaky shade, cup of coffee in hand, watching for new life with my feathered soul sister.

We’re so eager to tear down things that aren’t perfectly lovely in our life. We don’t want to look at rickety boards and chipped paint. We don’t want to have awkward conversations and squint to see potential. Nurturing hope is intentional work. The world doesn’t have patience for this. It preaches,

If your marriage is struggling, tear it down.

If your friend betrays you, close the door.

If your dream shreds easily, throw it out.

If your ministry doesn’t grow, give up.

STOP.

This is the world’s way. It is not God’s way.

Don’t bring in the demolition crew so quickly. Look for life. Even if the promise is huddled in a fragile shell.

When the Lord brought Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones, he asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:3)

And God did know.

He spoke to the bones, “I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37:6b)

Ezekiel saw dry bones. God saw an opportunity for a miracle. Anyone can bring death to a situation. Only God can bring life.

Walking away from a valley of dry bones is not God’s way.

Breathing life into them is God’s way.

Raising the dead is His way.

Letting a baby bird hatch in a termite palace, is His way.

Hover over these truths. Be patient. Keep praying. Ask for God’s spirit to breathe into every situation.

Try not to focus on broken boards framing the circumstances…choose to find the nesting egg, the dry bones that God can bring to life.

Always tend to the hope among the decay.

If you do, you’ll be ready to welcome new life like Penelope.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

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Don’t Cry Mom

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Don’t cry Mom.

I know you and Dad saw a piece of our early childhood bruised and lonely. The owners neglected it like a stray cat. Its ribs poking out, its rosy complexion, pale and lifeless. Your nostalgic ‘drive by’ led you to the ugliest house on the block. The cushy grass you trampled to scoop us after a fall, is crunchy and brown. The sidewalk where Dad chased close behind as I learned to ride my bike, is cracked and uneven. Not a trace of tender attention you’d poured into it was reflected in the rear-view mirror.

Don’t be sad.

That house wasn’t built to last. The space where your grandchildren gather to giggle and bake, won’t last either. The olive tree in the front that every neighborhood kid triumphantly climbed, has already passed away. The gaping hole where it once reached to the sky, reminds me, life is a breath.

Houses of wood and stone and brick crumble. The branches of epic climbing trees rot away.

I want you and Dad to know one thing…

You’ve built a house for me more gorgeous than any Zillow listing; 

A house built on Christ, the solid rock.

When you prayed over dinner, over sickness or at the foot of my bed as I drifted off…

 A strong foundation was poured-

Prayer wasn’t only for hard times.

Prayer was for all times.

Prayer was for everything in my life.

When you brought us to spend long afternoons piecing together puzzles with widows like ‘Grandma Myrtle’, I didn’t understand…

 A thoughtful frame was being pieced together-

Love is patient & kind.

Everyone is worthy.

 I was worthy.

When you’d order bags of extra hamburgers at Burger King to hand out to the homeless man after church, I was unsure of the filthy, life-worn hands grabbing at the food…

Strong walls were being raised in my life-

God sees everyone.

God loves everyone.

God sees and loves me.

When I woke up exhausted the morning of my baptism burdened with bad dreams, you helped me get dressed. You rolled down my ruffled sock whispering, ‘There’s an enemy. He doesn’t want you to get baptized. You cannot let him win’…

The roof of my spiritual house was secured-

I would experience fierce battles in my life.

My God was stronger and fiercer.

God made me strong and fierce.

Now that I’m a Mommy, I want my precious kiddos to dwell in a solid spiritual house like the one you created for me.  I thought of this as I baptized my children, your grandchildren, in the very pool you’ve generously opened up to friends and neighbors for the past 32 years. I felt God beaming with pride as Aaron and I dipped their precious heads back into the water.

The Great Commission starts in the home. I learned this from you. I’m aware God will equip us to build a spiritual house with a unique rhythm and calling.

But it’s not a new house.

We’re expanding the construction you’ve started. Just as you added a fresh wing to what your parents crafted for you.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock”. Matthew 7:24-25

Mom and Dad, the rain has fallen, the floods have come, winds have blown and beaten on the house…but it has not fallen. It never will.

One day, we’ll dwell in the house of the Lord together, forever.  The grass will never turn a dusty brown and paint will never peel. There will be more than one olive tree for your grandchildren, and their great grandchildren to climb. I imagine we’d have tears of joy…if tears were allowed. But they’re not. So don’t cry Mom.

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Real Faith is for Real Life

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Do you really have to mash it behind your head like that?!

Please! Don’t use the pillow as a food tray.

I beg you, don’t put the pillow between your legs. Fabrics absorb smells, sweetie!

Seriously…who thought it was OK to put a muddy cleat here?!

Why is Every. Single. Pillow. On the floor?!

I’m dying.

I’ve been drooling over extraordinary pillows for the past year. Yes, there is such a thing as ‘extraordinary pillows’. They live at Anthropologie, where it smells like a magical forest.

I want them. However, they’re a gazillion dollars. You can’t always get what you want.

Target came to the rescue with some adorable Anthro knock-offs.  So, for Mother’s Day, I pointed them out as, would be a great gift from the kiddos! (wink wink).

I see them enthroned on my 11-year-old, stained couch, and smile.

They’re pretty. It’s simple as that.

Or is it?

These lovely pillows have awakened some alternate Type A personality in me.

My poor family. Relaxing is no longer allowed. It might disturb the decorative pillows.

I’m being ridiculous. What’s the point of having pillows, if I’m worried they’ll be ruined at the slightest touch?

I’ve found myself asking the same question about my faith. What’s the point of claiming faith, if I’m too afraid it will fall apart when life leans hard against it?

Sometimes I view my faith as decorative. I can admire how lovely it sits on the throne of my existence, but when the big, dirty cleats of life tread on it, my shoulders tighten. Deep down, I question…will this destroy my faith? And if it does, what does that mean about God?

In the moments I’ve dared to pick up my faith, stomp on it, wrestle it, punch it with questions and bitterness, I’ve realized…

Real faith, is for real life.

And real life doesn’t smell like Anthropoligie. God doesn’t want us to be afraid to throw all our junk at it full force. The faith he gives is not a cheap knock off. It’s the real deal.

Paul tells us, ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed’. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

If we’re taking our faith along for the ride, it will endure the same refining.

I’ve fallen face first into my faith and sobbed. I’ve thrown it powerfully against my closet doors and cursed it a liar. But the real lie is in thinking broken faith isn’t fixable.

I’ve lifted my faith up to the Lord, tattered, dirty, horribly misshapen with stuffing pouring out at every ripped seam. I’ve felt ashamed, like a little girl who ruined her new doll by leaving it in the rain.

Look what I’ve done to the gift you gave me, Father. I took it out in the storm with me. Look at this mess…

His eyes are on me.

Sweet girl, I knit you together in your mother’s womb.

I can knit your faith back together, too.

And he always does. His healing fabric is durable, his stitch, solidly perfect. He knew the whole time that the testing of my faith would produce perseverance in me. (James 1:3)

I am weak. My God is strong. When I offer Him my feeble faith, HE strengthens it.

Maybe there’s just a frayed corner that remains of your faith.

That’s OK. He just needs faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains in your life. (Matthew 17:20)

We must approach God with our brokenness, so we experience him as Healer.

After the battle, our faith proves to be the comforting truth we rest our heart upon at the end of the day.

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